The Art of the Displacement Activity

Time is not elastic.  I’ve discovered that over the years trying to pack too much into the day and then falling short and being angry at myself.  When you’re writing it seems to be even more elusive.  Somehow, the knowledge that you need to sit down and write something is enough to create any number of diversions throughout the day.  Everyone has jobs to do first thing.  These are, by their very nature, part of the scaffolding for the day.  You can’t possibly put off or miss out on these really important tasks.  So, with those taken care of, you sit down at your computer and switch it on…. then realise you can’t possibly start without a coffee/herbal tea/hot chocolate in your hand to keep you going through the grind of your arduous work, creating a masterpiece.

Sitting down again, with drink in hand, you mentally prepare, placing yourself in the world of your creation.  But you notice your email notifier is flagging up loads of messages and some of them could be vital.  You try to ignore them but a little nagging voice in your head keeps reminding you of all the responses you are waiting for, that might be contained in your Inbox.  It’s no use, just a quick look at them won’t harm…  But then, of course, some of them need responding to immediately.  An hour or so later when you’ve finished Googling things that you didn’t understand in the messages you realise it’s time for another coffee/tea/chocolate.

So you make yourself another drink and sit down to write…. finally!  But the phone rings and you have to answer it because it may be important.  Twenty minutes later you replace the receiver only to hear a knock at the door.  The postman has a parcel that needs signing for!  You have to open the parcel once the postman has gone and are excited to find inside the mail order tops you ordered a week ago.  Well, of course, they must be tried on because if they don’t fit, you need to repackage them and take them to the post office.  Oh my goodness, it’s eleven o’clock already and the post office mobile van, that sits outside the village shop, leaves at eleven thirty!

Hurtling upstairs to try on the tops you are disgusted with their poor quality and swear never to use THAT mail order company again.  So you rush to your computer and print out a returns label, repackage the tops with a rude note and charge out to the village shop in the hope that the post office van doesn’t leave quite on time.  It did and you’ve missed it.  But while you’re at the village shop there are some things that you need so you quickly drop in to buy them.  By the frozen food counter you meet a neighbour you haven’t seen since you appeared in the Christmas pantomime together.  He tells you the panto made a very healthy sum in support of the village hall and asks if you were going to sign up to take part in the production for the Jubliee celebrations – themed around the year 1952?  You throw around some ideas and say you’ll have a think about it but you must get back as you have to be somewhere.  You charge around the shop buying those necessities that drove you in there in the first place and power walk home, feeling the day slipping away.

Back home you put your un-posted parcel on the table by the front door and after removing your coat, determinedly walk straight to your computer and sit down at the desk.  You glance at the phone and a red light is flashing at you.  You try and ignore it but  it keeps winking and your imagination creates all sorts of awful news that is contained on the messages that have been left.  You snatch up the phone and listen – you have two messages.  The first is an automated voice telling you your library book has arrived.  The second is a friend who is complaining that she never sees you any more because you are so busy writing.  You wish!

Now you are able to concentrate fully on the task in hand…. Chapter Four.  As you start to write your stomach begins a series of rumbles musical enough to be performed at the village hall.  You glance at the clock… how did it get to be 1.00 o’clock?  Come to think of it, you are hungry.  It would be unproductive trying to write on an empty stomach.  Far better to have lunch and come back to the computer fresh.

After lunch you are feeling pretty drowsy and realise that you are not going to write anything useful today.  However, there is some more research that needs doing for the masterpiece and that would be a good use of the time.  So you sit down at your computer and respond to several more emails.  The one that says your monthly direct debit hasn’t gone through this month alarms you.  The online help desk at the bank is no help at all.  So you call their telephone banking service.  After listening to all the recorded options twice around because the recording is so poor, you finally get through to a ‘customer advisor’.  Somehow the direct debit mandate has been cancelled, you make arrangements to re-start it and in the meantime have to transfer an amount of money to the payee to cover the month missed.  When you replace the receiver you realise that it is now 3.00 pm and you still haven’t posted your parcel.  You need to get to the post office in town and don’t want to get caught up in the rush hour.  Well, at least you’re not in the middle of anything.  Now would be a good time to go to avoid the traffic.

You drive into town and can’t find a parking space and there’s roadworks in the High Street so you have to take a detour and can’t get near your usual Pay and Display.  Eventually you park, pay a fortune for it and have a long walk to the post office.  When you get there the queue is so long you can hear the deep sighs and heavy grunts from the doorway.  You wait…. and wait.  Eventually ‘Cashier No. 2’ is free and you get your parcel dispatched.  Walking back to the car park you pass your favourite fashion store and there’s a sale on… and you have some vouchers that are almost out of date.  So you quickly dive into the shop and buy two decent tops to replace the ones you have just sent back.  Much better quality.  Why do mail order anyway?  It’s always a disappointment.

By the time you emerge into the traffic it is stacked up for at least a mile.  The roadworks are causing huge problems and temporary traffic lights outside Tesco are adding to the chaos.  By the time you get home it’s almost 5.30.  There’s no time to write now – you have dinner to prepare and ironing to do.

Ah well, tomorrow is another day….


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2 responses to “The Art of the Displacement Activity

  1. Mark

    Hi Jennie

    This sounds like most of my days at the moment!


    • So easy to get sidetracked! I was sitting here (poolside in Palm Springs, 108 degrees) and attempting to write a little more of the novel) when I saw your comment – thanks Mark – much nicer talking to you then struggling with Elizabethanspeak! How’s it going – displacement activity aside?


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